I have disappointing news to share regarding the summer enrichment grants.
As you know, the Oregon Legislature and Governor Brown approved $150 million to fund K-12 learning and enrichments programs for the summer of 2022. Over 190 school districts, ESDs, and charter schools will make use of $100 million of those funds to offer summer opportunities for learning, enrichment, and credit recovery programs for students across Oregon. Creating joyful, engaging, and connection-centered summer programs based on the strengths and interests of young people is key to equity-driven summer programs. Summer provides a unique opportunity to allow educators additional time and space to:
- focus on building interpersonal relationships where students are well-known, cared for, and connected,
- create identity-affirming learning environments that sustain cultural knowledge, and
- integrate relevant, hands-on learning experiences that foster joy, creativity, and curiosity.
The remaining $50 million in grants for summer learning and enrichment opportunities offered through community-based, non-profit organizations (CBOs) is also moving forward. There are, however, circumstances within the existing insurance marketplace that present challenges to all eligible organizations being able to access these funds.
Student safety and well-being is the state’s top priority for students participating in summer learning programs. A key component of that is ensuring that all participating community-based organizations (CBOs) have insurance coverage that meets the highest standards. The State of Oregon has been working to identify a uniform solution that will enable hundreds of CBOs and tribes to access affordable insurance options. While it is the responsibility of each CBO that applies for these grant funds to carry required coverage, the state has pursued but ultimately exhausted multiple avenues, to address risk and insurance challenges that potentially impact numerous community based organizations (CBOs) and tribes in their efforts to offer additional summer enrichment activities for Oregon’s kindergarten through twelfth grade youth. Because of the nature of specific types of claims that can arise from working with children, the risks associated with these claims are high which requires high levels of insurance coverage with liabilities that continue for decades after the program has been completed.
Having this coverage provides the CBOs the financial backing to respond and pay for a claim. Without the insurance coverage the CBOs would need to pay all costs, legal fees and others, to defend and respond to any potential damage award. These funds would have to come from the CBO’s operating funds. If the state is brought into a claim DAS Risk Management has to subrogate against the parties who caused the exposure (see ORS 278.052). This means that the state would also have to seek payment from the party that caused the damage.
We do believe there are possible ways to correct for this challenge through statutory change and by allowing more time and resources for CBOs to acquire the necessary insurance to protect their organizations and require criminal background checks for all staff and volunteers.
We would like to work with Legislature and key partners (CBOs, tribes, risk and insurance representatives, DAS, DOJ, OSBA, SDAO, OAESD, and others) to develop legislative solutions early in the 2023 session to set these programs up for success in the summer of 2023.
For this summer, larger organizations that already carry or can obtain the necessary insurance to protect youth and the organizations will be able to access the summer enrichment funds. However, many smaller organizations will not be eligible this summer.
While challenging, ultimately these provisions protect children, families, and organizations and are a necessary part of offering summer enrichment to Oregon’s youth. I am sorry to share this disappoint news. I’m hopeful that you can share this with your applicants and potential applicants later this morning. Please reach out if we can be of assistance in some way.
Director of the Oregon Department of Education and Deputy Superintendent of Public Instruction